How to Pick a Paralegal Degree Program near Russellville Alabama
Congratulations on your decision to enroll in a paralegal school near Russellville AL and begin your journey that will result in a gratifying profession in legal services. However, it’s important that you find the ideal school so that you will get the comprehensive training that you need to achieve success. As you probably understand, the legal field is among the fastest growing occupations in the United States, and a growing number of academic choices are becoming available, both at school and online. But with numerous alternatives to choose from, where does one begin? Many potential students start by looking for schools within driving range of their Russellville homes. Of those alternatives, they try to find the program with the lowest tuition. Although location and cost are prime considerations when selecting a school, they are not the only factors you ought to consider. Things such as accreditation and the reputation of the program ought to be considered as well. Later on in this post we will review a list of questions that you need to ask potential paralegal schools so that you can assess and compare each one prior to making your selection. But before we do, let’s have a look at what a paralegal does and the educational choices that are offered to earn either a paralegal certificate or degree.
Paralegals and Legal Assistants
Legal assistants and paralegals basically both hold the same job positions and functions, only with different titles. However, legal secretaries are not the equivalent of either of those two positions and belong to a separate job category. Both paralegals and legal assistants help Russellville AL attorneys with a diverse array of job functions, such as legal research, maintaining client files, communicating with clients, and drafting legal documents. Their specific job functions are based upon the type of legal firm where they work. As an example, a legal assistant for a criminal law practice may help with trial logistics or transporting documents to court. In private firms, a paralegal’s work is typically billed by the hour as are the attorney’s. And just like lawyers, they must conduct themselves with a high level of professionalism and comply with a strict standard of professional ethics. As noted, their duties can be wide ranging in support of the firms where they are employed, but a few of their day-to-day activities may include:
- Investigating and fact checking cases
- Researching pertinent cases and laws
- Composing correspondence and legal papers
- Submitting legal papers with opposing counsel or the court
- Assisting lawyers prepare for trial and keep organized with their cases
- Organizing and managing legal documents, files and other records
With all of their responsibilities, the job of a paralegal can be complicated and very challenging. On the other hand, what they are not legally permitted to do is provide legal counsel and advice or represent a client in a legal action. But they are not confined to clerical or administrative tasks more apropos to the job of a legal secretary. Legal assistants really are the right hand support systems for attorneys. And because they do so much of the legal ground work and preparation, attorneys have the ability to take on a much larger number of clients or cases than they could alone.
Paralegal Programs and Certification
As we discussed earlier, paralegals are essentially the same as legal assistants, with paralegals perhaps having more professional sounding job titles. In any case, for either position the academic requirements and opportunities will be the same. The fastest way to start your career as a legal assistant in Russellville AL is by earning a certificate, which may require just 6 months to complete. Many entry level positions do require an Associate’s Degree, which provide a more comprehensive education and may be earned at many community colleges in 2 years. For an even more comprehensive education, four year Bachelor’s Degrees are available as well. When you have earned either a degree or a certificate, you might want to continue and earn a certification. Even though it is not a mandatory requirement in Alabama to practice as a paralegal, certification may not only help increase your employment opportunities, but help establish you as a professional as well. Some of the highly regarded certifying organizations in the field are:
- National Federation of Paralegal Associations
- American Alliance of Paralegals
- National Association of Legal Assistants
- National Association for Legal Professionals
By graduating with a paralegal certificate or degree from an accredited program (we will discuss the benefits of accreditation later) and obtaining a certification, you will have taken 2 crucial initial steps that will help guarantee your success as either a paralegal or a legal assistant.
Things to Ask Paralegal Programs
Since you now you have a better idea about what paralegals do and what training choices are available, you can begin the process of evaluating schools. But considering that there are numerous programs accessible at junior and community colleges in the Russellville AL area, as well as vocational and trade schools, you must find out what questions to ask so that you can evaluate each one. This is particularly true if you include all of the online paralegal degree and certificate programs also. If you are like many prospective students, you will begin by looking for schools within commuting distance and then comparing their tuition. But as we have already discussed, there are other crucial issues to think about as well, for instance the reputation and accreditation of the schools. So let’s take a look at several of the questions you need to be asking the schools you are investigating so that you can thoroughly vet each one and make your ultimate decision.
Is the Paralegal Training Accredited? The paralegal school and program that you choose need to be accredited by a respected accrediting agency such as the American Bar Association. If it is an online program, it can also obtain accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council, which targets online or distance education. Accreditation will not only certify that the training you will receive will be of the highest standard, but it will demonstrate to future employers that you are a qualified professional as well. Numerous Russellville AL law firms will only employ entry level paralegals that are graduates of an accredited school. Also, financial assistance and student loans are typically accessible only for accredited programs.
What’s the School’s Reputation? Investigate what the reputations and rankings are for the legal assistant schools you are contemplating. This is of specific importance if you are entering the field with no previous work history, since employers will have to make a decision based on the caliber of your training exclusively. Confirming that the program you select is accredited is an excellent first step. Reviewing school rating services, such as those furnished by U.S. News and World Report, can help verify school quality of education and rankings as well. You can also contact several Russellville AL law firms that you may have an interest in working for after graduation and ask what schools they suggest. Bear in mind that even though a school is not the most highly rated, its paralegal program could still have an outstanding reputation.
Does the Program Provide Internships? Internship programs give students a chance to experience working in a law practice or other legal operation while remaining in school. They can also provide an avenue for students to start establishing contacts within the Russellville AL legal community. Find out if the paralegal schools you are assessing offer internship programs, particularly in areas of the law that you have the most interest in entering after graduation.
Is Job Placement Assistance available? You will undoubtedly want to hit the ground running after graduating, but getting that initial job in a new profession can be challenging without support. Ask if the paralegal schools you are reviewing have job placement programs and what their success rates are. High and rapid placement rates are an excellent indication that the schools have sizable networks and great relationships with Alabama legal services employers. It also substantiates that their graduates are well regarded and sought after.
Where is the School Located? Because laws differ from one state to another, it may be advantageous to enroll in a legal assistant school located in Alabama or the state where you want to practice after graduation. Also, it will be important to build relationships in the local legal community, possibly through an internship program. This is even more justification to acquire your education in the community where you want to work. Also, if you go to classes at a community college, many require an increased tuition for students that live outside of their districts. So you might wish to first look at those colleges that are within the Russellville AL area.
What is the Total Cost? Paralegal schools can vary in cost depending on the credential earned and the length of training furnished. Having said that, tuition will not be the only expense for your education. Remember to add the cost of books, supplies and commuting to classes to your budget as well. Financial aid may be obtainable to help offset some of the expense, so be sure to contact the school’s financial aid department to find out what is available in Russellville AL. Needless to say that if you decide to attend an online program, a portion these additional costs, such as for commuting, might be reduced or eliminated.
Do the Classes Fit your Schedule? Numerous paralegal students keep working while receiving their training and must have flexibility in class scheduling. If you can only attend night or weekend classes near Russellville AL, make certain classes are offered at those times. Additionally, if you can only attend on a part-time basis, make sure that the school you choose provides that option. Finally, find out what the procedure is for making up classes missed as a result of work, illness or family emergencies.
Paralegal and Legal Assistant Online Classes
Legal assistant and paralegal online schools have become more available and may be an excellent option for students looking for convenient access to classes as well as accommodating scheduling. Online programs can be particularly attractive to individuals who keep working while earning a certificate or degree. As an added advantage, online schools can often be less expensive than on campus options. Even supplementary expenditures for such items as commuting or study materials may be minimized or eliminated. One caution, not all online programs are accredited, which we will cover in more detail later. But at a minimum accreditation helps guarantee that the education you receive is of the highest caliber. So check to make sure that the program and school you are thinking about are accredited by a reputable organization, for example the American Bar Association. But if you are dedicated enough to study in a less structured and conventional setting, then obtaining your degree or certificate online could be the right choice for you.
Will You Attend Paralegal School near Russellville AL?
If you live near Russellville AL or perhaps you are considering attending classes in that area, following is some interesting and useful information regarding the location of your new school campus.
Russellville is a city in Franklin County in the U.S. state of Alabama. At the 2010 census, the population of the city was 9,830, up from 8,971 at the 2000 census. The city is the county seat of Franklin County.
After the War of 1812, the U.S. government appropriated money to improve a route from Nashville to New Orleans. It was named Jackson's Military Road after Andrew Jackson, and it passed through what became Russellville. (Present-day Jackson Avenue and Jackson Highway, U.S. Route 43, follow portions of the original road.)
Russellville is named after Major William Russell, an early settler in the area who helped in the construction of Jackson's Military Road. The town grew at this road's intersection with the Gaines Trace.
Enroll in the Best Paralegal Degree Program near Russellville AL
Choosing the best paralegal training program is an important first step toward your success in the rewarding field of law. As we have covered in this post, you have the option of attending classes at school or you can attend them online in the privacy and comfort of your Russellville home. Paralegal academic programs are offered in many formats and lengths. Various kinds of private and public institutions provide paralegal education, including junior and community colleges, four-year colleges and universities, as well as trade and vocational schools. Your selection of a paralegal school will have a profound impact on your opportunities for success in your new career. Since there is a broad range in the quality of schools, choose carefully. Give yourself the best possible chance to succeed in this exciting profession. But no matter how you decide to acquire your education and earn your degree or certificate, by asking the questions that we have presented you will have the ability to evaluate each school and make your final selection. And with the appropriate education you can realize your career goal to become a successful paralegal in Russellville AL.
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